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Alex Blanes

Student, Vancouver Island University


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How can we cultivate courageous, non-violent dialogue between youth and power?

Today, August 12th, 2011, the United Nations' "International Year of Youth" draws to a close. It has been a very interesting year—one of the biggest in recent history for youth-instigated riots, uprisings and revolutions. Perhaps not what Ban Ki-Moon had in mind when he made the statement, "Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels"!

However, I believe their initial intention to sponsor "Dialogue and Mutual Understanding" between the young and the elite was, and is, a very important one. In fact, I would argue that many of the riots this past year could be attributed to a very profound lack of communication between youth and power.

I believe that if we lack a healthy relationship between ourselves and the unknown, it's difficult to be courageous. The young people of today, myself included, do not have any healthy way of relating to the unknown, seemingly mindless politics of their elders. This is why so many young people lash out—it is their violent form of questioning the silent authority. Neither method is indicative of a real conversation.

So my question is this: how can we stimulate a courage that is constructive, based on communication and positive risk, and not merely on reckless deconstruction of the old paradigms (which is not truly courageous at all)? How do we reconcile the passion and novelty of youth with the sensibility and experience of older generations? How do we enable youth to challenge their leaders, and how do we solicit leaders to challenge their youth—in a mutually respectful dialectic? How do we inspire youth to follow the wise words of Buckminster Fuller: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"?


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  • Aug 12 2011: I think we also have to ask ourselves if "they" (the powerful) are deluded about what they are doing, or if we are.

    I dont think they are. I think they know very well what they are doing, and the sense that they are deluded comes from the way they label their actions to convince us to go along with them. "Humanitarian" wars, are rarely humanitarian, they are economic. Our leaders are not unaware or deluded that they have economic goals, and that their motives are economic. We are. Because they cannot sell a war to the people by saying, "we want you to pay with your tax dollars, and your lives, to help us overturn a government that is not playing ball with the economic powers that fund us, and secure access to the resources in that region to enrich them" and so they make up stories that they know will work with us. "We are liberating x people from horrible tyranny" or "this leader is endangering you, and we must stop them now for your sake."

    They arent deluded about what they are doing. They know precisely what they are doing. We are the ones who are deluded or half deluded about what they are doing. Because we accept at face value the labels they slap on their actions. Until we start looking past the labels, and until we start naming their actions ourselves, based on what is REALLY in the package they are handing us, we will be spinning our wheels.

    Democracy is another label we need to look beneath if we want to solve our problems, really solve them. Do we really have that? Is it democracy when the information people need to vote wisely is kept from them deliberately under the guise of "national security" and just flat out propaganda? In a nation when only candidates who have corporate funding stand a chance of being elected? We are spreading something CALLED democracy around the world, but what is it really when we look in the box?
    • Aug 12 2011: In reference to Alyson... you make a profound and honest point concerning the actions of 'the powerful'. Sadly, and I have had discussions with many people (professors, business people, even authorities on the concept of leadership), and most 'leaders' know right from wrong but choose to make decisions based on self-gratification and short-cuts. Today's climate is one of instant gratification and saldy we are seeing the results in the media daily (from our economic situation to an increase of unethical acts). I am glad to see this dialogue. Any attention on this subject may spark a positive change.

      I have come to realize in the last few years that in my past I have suffered from the "mis-attribution error". I have grown to assume that leaders and persons in positions of authority will put their personal gain aside in order to improve the organization and those persons they are resposible for. This couldn't be further from the truth. Good leaders are the exception and not the rule. Sadly, there are few examples to emulate.

      Your points concerning democracy and the use of terms like "national security' and even others like "domestic terrorism" is nothing but manipulation and worse the general public falls in lock-step and believes what ever they are told. Citizens need to demand more from the government. There is no accountability, no transparency. The government of the past worked for the people- now the people work for the government. The reason- the government has gotten so big that we have to simply accept the actions of this monstrosity. It is merely too big to manage.
      • Aug 12 2011: It is too big to manage. And going bigger, (globalization) just serves to further alienate our leaders from the needs, the wants, and the will of the people.

        I wish I had the solution to the whole problem, but I dont. But I do know for certain that if we dont start by looking clearly at what is happening, and discussing what is really happening, we have no chance of coming up with a workable solution.
        • Aug 12 2011: So true. Another problem that exists is that those making decisions are often too far removed from the real issues. They are alienated from reality. As a result nothing will get fixed.

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